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I was in Austria recently, and at a restaurant there I ate a very simple dish that consisted mainly of two large pork chops in a light, thin gravy. The pork chops were super tender and came apart really easily.

So I have some leftover pork chops at home and I want to know how I can cook them so that they are like that. I usually fry chops, but that gives a different kind of texture I think.

I'm not really sure what to do with them. I don't have a crockpot or a slow cooker so I don't have too many options. I guess the choice is either boiling them (e.g., in gravy, or a stew) or cooking them in the oven, but I have no idea on how to do either of those things without turning it out horrible. Do you have any tips?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Try making braised pork chops with onions. Salt and pepper then brown chops on both sides in a heavy frying pan or skillet. Remove chops, add a little oil if needed, and add a sliced onion, stirring occasionally until the onion is lightly browned. Add water or chicken stock or a combination to the onions to deglaze the pan, then nestle the chops back into the onions, cover and reduce the heat to a very low simmer. Cook this way for about a half hour to 45 minutes (test for fork-tenderness). Check occasionally to add more liquid as needed and to turn the chops.

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I make pulled pork all the time in the winter (usually from inexpensive shoulder roasts) using a heavy cast iron dutch oven, by filling it about 1 cm with water and letting it cook at low heat for 4-8 hours. After cooking it pulls apart with no resistance at all.

The important thing is to use a moist-heat cooking method and low heat. Braising is ideal. Just add a little liquid and cover it so that the steam does most of the work. If you don't have a dutch oven, you could probably use reasonably deep metal dish and cover it with aluminum foil.

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+1 for braising pork chops, its a winner (I cringe at oven baked pulled pork smoke ring :( ) – rfusca Aug 15 '11 at 1:34

Given that this was a restaurant, it's possible that your pork was cooked sous-vide (vacuum packed and placed in a low temperature water bath for an extended time, and then quick-seared). Cooking pork chops at precisely 140F for a couple of hours can create the effect you describe, but that requires specialized equipment. There are ways that you can replicate the effect without a dedicated sous vide machine and vacuum sealer (google for "ghetto sous vide"), but those are frankly a bit sketchy for anyone but dedicated hobbyists (Upside possibility: perfect pork chops, tenderloins, and steaks. Downside risk: Death from botulism or salmonella).

Boiling pork chops absolutely will result in horrible, horrible food. Baking pork chops will end up with okay-but-not-particularly-tender-or-interesting food.

Were I in your shoes, I would pan fry them, but try to do so for less time than you usually do. If you're in North America, you don't have to worry about trichonosis, so it is no longer required to cook pork as long as the previous generation had to. Medium-rare pan-fried pork chops can turn out tender, juicy, and flavorful, without any health risks.

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+1 for "if you are in North America..." Please put that in boldface – Dr. belisarius Aug 15 '11 at 4:19
I've heard of fairly recent trichinosis outbreaks in North America; they are rare of course, but they do occur. Where did you read that it's no longer necessary to fully cook pork? – Aaronut Aug 15 '11 at 14:57
The rarity of trichinosis is such that the FDA no longer suggests that commercially raised US pork be cooked any differently or longer than any other meat. Pork cooked to medium rare is just fine. – Dave Griffith Aug 15 '11 at 15:41

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